Searching for National Treasure
Updated: Feb 10
Picture this, it’s November 19th, 2004, a crowd of people nervously wait in line to watch the new film, National Treasure. Little did they know that this film would go on to become one of the greatest in cinematic history. National Treasure, was reviewed as a lazy, crappy movie that's nothing more than a Davinci Code ripoff, but beneath the surface is much more than perceived.
National Treasure is a cinematic masterpiece directed by Jon Turteltaub, starring Nicholas Cage, Diane Kruger, Justin Bartha, and Sean Bean. In this work of art, Turtletaub elegantly blends the line between drama and action. The story follows Benjamin Gates (a riveting Nicholas Cage) who spends his life searching for a mystical treasure. Could Turteltaub be using this treasure as a metaphor for the American dream? Ben chases this almost fictitious treasure much as many Americans spend their lives searching for the American dream. At several points in the film, his father tells him to stop and that he's too old to be chasing fantasies, which parallels how many now see the American dream as being dead and that chasing it will lead to nothing.
Throughout his search for treasure, Gates goes on a hunt using clues from American history. The story is closely tied to a real-life group called the Freemasons, who have been known to interfere in American politics, and are closely tied to the Illuminati, which is another secret organization that have been known to control American politics. The story centers around a message written on the back of the Declaration of Independence from the Freemasons. Turteltaub is subtly trying to show that something as crucial to our democracy was influenced by corrupt, higher powers. He is showing that beneath the facade of our government lies secret groups, powerful people, and organizations that really pull the strings. Freemasons are used as an analogy for corporate lobbyists who use their power and wealth to sway government officials.
Gates steals the Declaration of Independence in the movie. Turteltaub is trying to create a metaphor for the weakness of our democracy. He’ showing how an American citizen can literally steal the document that represents our freedom and democracy. He’s using this to represent the corporations that steal our freedom from us.
Of course the real national treasure is Nicholas Cage himself. He delivers a gripping performance to his character; you can't tell where his character begins and where Cage ends. His character is a play on the American classic hero who uses his quick thinking to avert any dangerous situation. Cage’s performance is reminiscent of that of Robert Deniro in Taxi Driver in his ability to transom into Benjamin Gates.
The idea of the nuclear American family has its own masterful twist in the movie. Benjamin is the son of Patrick Gates, played by Jon Voight. In the movie, the Gates' are famous for trying to find the lost American treasure, and Benjamin learned from his grandfather. It’s this treasure that fractures the Gates family. Patrick Gates believes there is no treasure, and this belief destroys his relationship with his son. Turteltaub elegantly shows the fracturing of American families and how our obsessions can tear us apart from our family.
From rewatching National Treasure I found that it exceeded my expectations for what a movie could be. Nicholas Cage’s performance and Benjamin Gates is one of the greatest I’ve ever seen, and the movie is held together by beautiful cinematography. I would highly recommend that anyone who hasn’t seen this film or hasn't seen it in several years, should watch it.